The measurement properties of stigmatizing attitudes towards mental disorders: results from two community surveys

Marie B. H. Yap, Andrew Mackinnon, Nicola J Reavley, Anthony F Jorm

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Stigma is a well-documented concern of people living with mental illness. Through the use of novel exploratory structural equation modelling (ESEM) methods, we aimed to elucidate the structure of stigma as measured by two stigma scales (the Depression Stigma Scale and the Social Distance Scale), to establish dimensions of stigma towards a range of disorders and to compare levels on these dimensions between disorders and respondent subgroups. We used data from two Australian national surveys, one of the general community aged 15+ and another of youths aged 15-25. Stigma responses were elicited using a range of mental illness vignettes: depression, schizophrenia, social phobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). ESEM revealed that the structure of stigmatizing attitudes in young people and adults is comparable in personally held attitudes and those perceived in others. Personal and perceived stigma formed distinct dimensions with each comprising Weak-not-sick and Dangerous/unpredictable components. The social distance dimension of stigma was separate from other components of stigma, supporting the appropriateness of the existing Social Distance Scale. Scales reflecting these dimensions had different patterns of association with respondent age and gender, and the type of mental disorder portrayed in the vignette
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014


  • mental illness
  • stigma
  • exploratory structural equation modelling
  • social distance

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